BERLIN, Germany: In a bid to halt the spread of the fourth wave of COVID-19 in Germany, national and regional leaders have placed additional restrictions on people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, including barring them from much of public life.
The move was described by outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel as an act of "national solidarity," adding that vaccinations could be made mandatory by February.
Only those who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed inside restaurants, cinemas, leisure facilities and many shops.
The ongoing fourth wave of the pandemic in Germany has been the most severe, and there is also growing concern about the spread of the Omicron variant.
Merkel said hospitals were stretched to the point of patients having to be moved to different regions for treatment. "The fourth wave must be broken and this has not yet been achieved," said Merkel.
"Given the situation, I think it is appropriate to adopt compulsory vaccination," she said, noting that such a policy would have to be approved by parliament.
Olaf Scholz, who is to take over as chancellor, supports the move, while Berlin Mayor Michael Mller said most COVID-19 cases are among those who are unvaccinated.
The new measures were not described as a lockdown of the unvaccinated, but outgoing Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier called the new regulations a "quasi-lockdown."
In Germany, only 68.7 percent of the population has been vaccinated, a relatively low rate for Western Europe.
The EU's European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said 79 cases of the new Omicron variant have been reported in 15 European countries, with most being linked to travel to African countries, as well as connecting flights between Africa and Europe.